Closed gas stations, like that pictured above, are far too common. The recent advent of “hypermarts” with a dozen or more pumps and large stores has accelerated the decline of small, independently owned gas stations. While certainly convenient, the cheap gas offered by hypermarts tends to last only until competitors go out of business. Area residents are then left with closed gas stations that become eyesores difficult to convert to other uses. But an Aurora, Illinois neighborhood group recently won their battle against a proposed hypermart. Here’s how the victory was won in the words of Randy Briesath who led the campaign. For further detail on getting the benefits of gas stations, convenience stores and hypermarts without the negative impacts visit: ceds.org/convenience.
“Our neighborhood recently undertook an effort to try and stop a gas station/c-store development that was to abut our property line and greatly impact the local traffic safety and environmentals. Our three main concerns were:
- Increased traffic and traffic safety, especially with a school just one block away. This is a walk to school community and the gas station design called for diesel pumps, which would pull trucks and semis onto our local streets.
- The current site includes wetlands and we were very concerned about the impact on the local water table, since we already incur regular flooding.
- Proximity to homes was also a concern. Research clearly indicates that a gas station backing up to homes reduces those homes’ value by up to 20%. We were also concerned with the 24 hour service being proposed by the station owner. This would mean more lighting, more sound, and late night hanging out. Emerging science also shows that carcinogens produced by stations should be more than 300 feet from the closest house.
We were successful in defeating this proposal. There were a few critical success factors that lead to this outcome.
- Good community leaders that were able to rally widespread support against this project. This included town hall meetings, communications strategy, petition drives, and assignment of key arguments.
- The hiring of CEDS. They were instrumental in providing high level advice on how best to defeat the project. This gave us confidence that we could win. They also provided traffic safety insights. Most importantly, CEDS provided us with a needs analysis that was shared with city officials. Given that the planning commission has to consider “highest and best use” guidelines, this needs analysis provided a clear argument to these guidelines. We were also able to tell the station owners and city that, we too, had experts in our corner to counter most claims the station owner was making.
- The hiring of a lawyer. We hired a local attorney that specialized in this type of work. This person took the lead in communicating our position to city officials and the station owner (a large national company).
- Gaining the support of key city officials. We did a great job of soliciting support from each alderman and getting their direct commitment of support. We were not shy about making sure they were supporting their constituents and not some big corporation not even headquartered in our state.
- Lastly, we remained fact based in all our communications with city officials and the company. We did a good job making sure it stayed professional.
In summary, I would say the keys were great community involvement and the use of outside experts like CEDS. The experts give you confidence in your approach and give you the opportunity to level the playing field with the developers team of experts.”